I’m not sure anything makes you feel quite as foreign, and out of your depth, as having to navigate your way through a different country’s A&E department late on a Saturday afternoon with a whimpering child at your side. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers and the wonders of Google Translate. And so it was that we found ourselves staring down the barrel of eight whole weeks with our 6 year old lad, with a broken tibia, in a full leg cast. Let’s just say it wasn’t quite the autumn that we all had been dreaming of…
But with holidays cancelled, and weekend plans scaled back, we did find ourselves a comfortable domestic rhythm. Craft projects have been undertaken and for once completed, old toys and puzzles have been rediscovered, played with, and discarded again, and a generous helping of TV has also been greedily consumed.
And if we needed a little adventure? Well then, (as always) hurray for books! Here are a few old and new favourites that have been broadening our world a little these last couple of months.
Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means if you decide to purchase any of these books by clicking through the provided links, you will be supporting the blog, at no additional cost to yourself. As I know many of my readers are based internationally, I have included links to the Book Depository, as they deliver worldwide for free. As always, the views expressed here are entirely honest and my own.
Beautiful Picture Books
Although my son is beginning to grow out of some of his cute, simple picture books, he still is at the age where he loves an interesting or funny book, brought to life by vivid illustrations. And come bedtime, these beautiful books are often still his first choice.
This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
As soon as I saw this book documenting a day in the lives of seven children from around the world I knew I’d love it – so I got it, pretending it was for my son. Happily, he loves it too!
Full of colourful, detailed illustrations, it really is a simple yet brilliant way to gain an insight into different cultures and ways of life. We get glimpses of the children’s family, their food, their journey to school and their classrooms, as well as learning about how they spend their evening and where they sleep. What makes it feel particularly original and authentic is that it is based on real children’s lives – with the last page showing photos of them with their families. And although of course there are many differences between their lives, it is noticeable how many similarities there are too.
The Loud Book and The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
These two companion books are so funny, charming and beautifully observed, it is little wonder they are bestsellers. Collecting together all those quiet and loud moments in a child’s life, from ‘thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet’ to ‘crackling campfire loud’ – a whole arc of emotion is wonderfully illustrated and captured. My son has owned these since the age of three but still reads them over and over: surely the perfect endorsement of any picture book.
Dr Seuss books
Of course, I knew of the world of Dr Seuss, but it wasn’t until I was working as a Special Educational Needs Teacher, helping older boys to learn to read, that I came to appreciate these books’ true genius. Unlike many other titles for beginner readers, they are funny, wacky and a pleasure to read. Since being a toddler, my son has adored every single Dr Seuss book he has encountered, and now that he is older he will happily sit and read them to his toddler sister. The Cat in the Hat and Ten Apples Up on Top are perennial favourites, although he is also a fan of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Sneetches. It is fair to say that we aren’t inundated with sweet sibling moments in this house, but seeing my two share these stories is definitely one.
Excellent Activity Books
Although my lad has always adored reading, he is a much less enthusiastic writer. Never one for a colouring book, finding something that piques his interest and makes him want to put pen to paper has always been a challenge. Here are a couple that do:
Iggy Peck’s Big Project Book for Amazing Architects by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
This project book is a companion book to the best-selling Iggy Peck Architect and begins with a shortened version of the delightfully comic and inspiring story of Iggy and his unquenchable love of architecture. We are then led through over forty structured project ideas – mainly revolving around drawing and design, with few hands-on building ideas thrown in too.
Although he is a little young for some of the more complex projects included here, my son still really enjoys studying all the buildings and talking through his ideas, and we both like that this isn’t a book that talks down to its audience, but rather uses proper architectural terms and ideas. With a little support, he has also really enjoyed creating his own designs, especially to the zanier briefs. A keen Lego builder: this book has definitely captured his imagination, and I suspect that it will be revisited many more times as he gets older.
The Anti-Boredom Activity Book by Sophie Schrey, Chris Dickason and Barbara Ward
Silly, inventive and with a good range of activities – this has been another big success. Although the bold, bright illustrations featuring crazy creatures might give the impression of a book that shouldn’t be taken seriously (which is of course is why my lad really likes it), you can’t help but be impressed by the perfect structuring of activities throughout for beginner writers. This is a brilliant book for encouraging children to draw and write in a fun and supportive way.
Favourite Chapter Books
My son is making his first strides into independent reading, although he is still keen to be read to, and this is particularly the case with slightly longer chapter books.
Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher
Since the age of five, my little boy has delighted in this tale of Jemima and Jakey-pants and their many exploits alongside their wonderfully eccentric babysitter, Marge. A year and a half later and it is still a firm favourite, as are the other books from the Marge series.
The book is divided into three short stories with most pages involve one or two small, playful illustrations; a helpful addition when making the transition into longer chapter books. This isn’t a book with an edge (there are no Roald Dahl-esque villains here) – just simple, joyful fun which raises a good few giggles – which is exactly why my son loves it.
Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Chris Riddell
In many ways the antithesis to the sweet, simple fun of Marge, this is a book that uses a dry, knowing humour, elaborate plot twists and a nonlinear narrative. And it is simply wonderful. There is a quirky charm in both the writing and the interspersed illustrations which makes this a riotous romp of a book for both kids and adults. Although my son doesn’t always completely understand the nuances of the time travelling plot, he just adores the larger than life characters, exciting adventure and absurdist comedy. Well, who doesn’t love a story involving a time-travelling dinosaur, tyrannical pirates, sparkly ponies, blood thirsty wumpires and, well, milk?
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, Illustrated by Lauren Child
Another book with a wonderful, offbeat humour at its heart is the story of Pippi and her life at Villa Villekulla alongside her tall horse, her pet monkey – Mr Nilsson – and her new neighbours and friends, Tommy and Annika. It is hard not to fall in love with his classic within the opening chapter, and certainly my son finds himself both laughing and gasping as Pippi’s approaches the world with a sense of curiosity, fun, and very often, a total lack of decorum. As you would expect, the addition of Lauren Child’s colourful, playful illustrations are simply the cherry on top.
Little Manfred by Michael Morpurgo
This story was inspired by a small, wooden dachshund, that sits in the Imperial War Museum in London. Made by a German prisoner of war for the children at the farm where he worked in the south of England in the latter years of the Second World War, this is a fictionalised account of how it comes to be there.
I must admit I felt like I was taking a bit of a risk reading this book that deals with war, unlikely friendships and loss, to my six-and-a-half-year-old, and I probably wouldn’t recommend this book for children who are very much younger. However, we were both totally engrossed by this account of prisoners of war, and although there were moments that my son found both surprising and sad, the way the narrative is framed in the past, and told simply, and with the wretchedness of war interspersed by moments of humour, tenderness and warmth, meant that he never found it unduly upsetting. This is a poignant and powerful book for children who are interested in learning more about war, and some of the lessons that it can teach us.
So, of course, this is far from comprehensive, just a peek at some of our reading highlights from over the past month or so. Please do leave me a comment if you have a good recommendation that would suit a 6 year old – we are always keen to receive a little more inspiration!